Should it be harder for the US to wage war?

Sometimes, the world’s Superpower needs to go to war, but sometimes the US goes to war when it probably shouldn’t. It got me thinking about what it takes to send the troops into harm’s way. This isn’t something that should be entered into lightly, but the current system allows a bunch of politicians to declare war with no real personal stake. None of the politicans (nor for the most part, their immediate family) face any of the mortal danger that the soldiers they send in must face.

But what if they did?

Supposing the political leaders can still start wars like today, but after a period of time (say 3 years), a popular majority of the military personnel who were sent in may decide to put to death any or all of the leaders who voted for war…

We might have fewer wars, but my thinking is that important wars would still be waged. But they had better be damn important if the politicians are going to stake their lives on it. And I’m guessing the military personnel would be treated a lot better, given crucial armor and equipment, and not sent on reckless or futile missions.

What do you think?

How would one go about restricting that ability? Congress already took the logical step with the War Powers Act, but to invoke that would be political suicide, and it might not withstand scrutiny in the Supreme Court anyway.

The ability to invade is also the ability to defend. If the President is restrained from military action via statute and it is somehow determined to be Constitutional, the only way it has any teeth is if no exceptions are made, otherwise the President will be able to use that exception. So what happens if we’re attacked? The President has to go hat in hand to Congress to ask permission by law to mount a defense? Bad idea.

Unfortunately, we have to depend on the judgment of the President or take it completely out of his hands, which is even less palatable under some circumstances and makes the President a rubber stamp for the Congress, which would wreck our system of checks and balances.

Perhaps you missed the OP. I am not restricting anything. Just making sure the leaders think long and hard before waging a war with the powers they have. I agree with your post, btw, and I’d love to have more input from someone like yourself. However, you seem to imply that I am proposing to take away our leaders power to wage war, which I am not.

Leaders will never have to think long and hard as long as they think that they are not beholden to the people that elected them. We currently have a worst-case scenario wherein the President received approval from the voters during the last election, which naturally was taken as approval of his actions as a whole.

The question, then, is how do we make politicians responsive to the electorate? In some cases that is a desirable thing (like now) but in other cases it is important that our leaders be insulated from the electorate, because if government is too responsive our national policies will be forever vague and too subject to the vagaries of popular opinion.

Further, we have the concept of a volunteer military. We have created substantial incentive for people to join up, and for a lot of people it is both a way to get a leg up and a way to show their patriotism (as it is for me). As long as people continue to volunteer they will be subjected to orders that in some cases make perfect sense but do not in other cases. Interestingly, due to the reductions in force we are running into a situation where the politicians have painted themselves into a corner, because the force structure is so small that they now have to pick and choose their battles (an example is that we are so absorbed by Iraq that we have no force option for Iran, which is clearly the next flashpoint). Regardless, due to the nature of volunteerism nobody can say that they didn’t know what they were getting into, thus reducing the military to mere foreign policy pawns with little right to object and no right to refuse.

Why, then, should the politicians be overly concerned about the results of their decisions? How can we make it clear to them if we continue to re-elect them? How can we make it clear to the new crop if we vote the incumbents out? We can’t. It’s simply not possible. We do not have direct democracy, we have no mechanism for recall, we have no recourse.

There’s simply no way. We have to depend on the consciences of our leaders, our wisdom in our judgment of their judgment, and our limited abilities to sway their decisions. If you’re against the war in Iraq, it’s easy to see that we have failed in all three cases. If you’re in favor of the war you’re perfectly happy with the decisions made. Such is the nature of our schizophrenic electorate.

In any event, while war should not be undertaken lightly, we can’t hamstring our leaders to the point where it is impossible. We can’t take the stick completely away, but we should encourage more use of the carrot.

I certainly think it should be damned near impossible to wage a preventive war. I don’t know how a President can be reined in with the attitude in the leadership and the populace that seems to prevail after the 9/11 attacks but I think it is vital to our real national security. Dashing off to war on a thinly supported case for imminent peril is a good way to completely destroy our credibility and drive off any allies we might otherwise have been able to rely on. I think that we have gone way too far down that road already.

Our present Congress seems willing to allow the President to run the nation’s affairs as he sees fit. It seems to me that our Congress was completely out to lunch on their oversight duties in nat asking hard questions, or any questions at all, in the case of the Iraq war.

I just wish there was some way to control these politicians. If only we had some mechanism whereby they would be subject to a review of the way they performed their duties on a regularly scheduled basis and people could make a decision on whether or not they should retain office. If only…

But in the absense of such a thing, I suppose killing them is the only way.

Just wait untill unmanned combat vehicles start to be churned out of factories and see how easy it will be to start wars.

Members of the House run for office every two years. One problem seems to be that polls show that the great majority thinks that most members of Congress are pretty sleazy, but their member is great. If only people would regularly start turning out incumbent House members for fuck-ups the other house and the Chief Executive would begin to feel a severe chill in the air. I don’t look for that to happen any time soon.

Hello, Airman Doors. I enjoy reading your posts, but I believe I have an answer to many of the questions you pose. In my proposal, if the military personnel sent into harm’s way agree with the decision to wage war, then everything is as it should be. If they do not, it has nothing to do with the electorate at large. It’s all about the military personnel. If they are asked to risk their lives, should they have some say about it later? And, is this a good thing as it makes the political leaders think long and hard before starting a war since they are putting their actual lives at stake? (not just their political lives)

Do you still believe this “hamstrings our leaders”? I think wars will still be waged, but only when necessary. If we add my proposed motivation, would fewer wars be started on a whim or conducted poorly?

I think it would also help the general public accept a war if they know the military personnel have at least some say. So, would you want this?

Well, now, you’re advocating that the military have some input into the political activities and foreign policy of the United States of America. Are you sure that you mean that? That’s a big mistake, if you ask me.

Yes, it would hamstring our foreign policy, inasmuch as it becomes conditional service, which in turn translates to institutional blackmail. Do you want the people with all the guns to have that much power? If so, we can dispose of the need for subtlety and simply overthrow the government tomorrow, because once the military stops being an instrument of policy and becomes the maker of it you’ve planted the seeds for a military coup. History has borne out time and time again that when the military is given the kind of power you are talking about it leads to disaster.

Isn’t there some happy medium between the current situation and allowing the military to execute the president? If you want to make it harder to declare war, then requiring a super-majority in Congress to approve a military action is probably the way to go. Not that I think something like that has a chance of being passed, but it has more of a chance than the OP’s suggestion.

If approval of the Iraq war required a supermajority it would habe passed anyway. An overwhelming majority of the house and senate voted to approve the use of force against Iraq.

And encouraging the military to perform extrajudicial executions and assassinations strikes me as a spectacularly unhelpful idea. Why not just skip a step and throw out the whole constitution and instutute a military dictatorship right away? Make it easier and cleaner.

I’d be satisfied if we just revived the custom of requiring a formal declaration of war from Congress before commencing hostilities. No supermajority, just a plain majority vote. But call it war, no euphemisms.

Possibly. Remember, though, that the AUMF was not exactly a declaration of war. Many of the Democrats in the Senate who voted for that resolution were able to weasel their way through the process by saying they only wanted to give the president a limited authority to press forward with the inspections. There probably would have been fewer votes for an actual declaration of war, although there is no way of knowing if it would’ve been less than a 3/4 or 2/3 super-majority. I suspect a 3/4 supermajority would not have passed although a 2/3 supermajoirty might have. Just 3 fewer votes in the Senate would’ve taken the vote under a 3/4 super-majority.

Yeah. What makes something a “war”? How many of the things the U.S. military have been involved in in the past several decades have been wars? How many times has the U.S. officially declared war?

Well, I think this policy has worked well for many Central American and African nations.